Danelle Harmon, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-9892330-8-8
Historical Romance, 2016
The Wayward One is the fifth book in the author’s The de Montfortes series, and some of the readers of the genre today were either still a tyke or even hadn’t been born back when the previous books were published. Fortunately, those books have been reissued by the author, so nobody has to miss out. On the other hand, those books may not have aged well to some readers, and this one has many of the same old sensibilities that may seem quaintly antiquated to younger readers. In fact, some may even find the hero Captain Ruaidri O’Devir’s behavior obnoxious or even offensive.
In this one, Nerissa de Montforte, the baby of the clan, finally gets her story. Jilted by her fiancé, she longs for some kind of distraction, and when the story opens, she accompanies her brother Andrew, an inventor, to a meeting with the highest ranking officers of the Royal Navy, during which Andrew intends to demonstrate his new explosive. Ruadri is part of the guest list – he is the supposedly useless and inebriated loser brother of Deirdre Lord (heroine of Master of My Dreams). Actually, he’s an Irish who hates all English, and he now commands a ship with the newly formed American Navy. He knows that Andrew’s explosive could give England the win over the Americans in their brewing war, so he kidnaps Nerissa and sends her brother Lucien a note: if he wants his sister back, then he’d hand over the recipe of Andrew’s explosive.
Meanwhile, Nerissa and Ruadri start to snog and all that.
This one is far more readable than it may actually be, I feel, because of the timing of its release. We don’t get many pirate-like romances these days, so there is some kind of novelty in rediscovering the same old tropes regurgitated faithfully in this one. The heroine at first worries that she’d be raped, but the hero only leers and makes “You’ll like it if I motorboat you!” kind of promises, and you know how it is when it comes to romances of this sort, He doesn’t rape her, so he’s a keeper. She predictably befriends the youngest and the most trusting crew member, eventually winning over the rest of the crew… you know the song and dance already if you have read stories of this sort before. They aren’t supposed to like the other person, but ooh, they kiss, he touches her in soft naughty places, and really, it’s that same old thing all over again.
Still, things won’t be so bad if the pacing, especially in the middle, sags like a hammock being assaulted by a whale. It’s due more to the fact that I am bored by the whole by-the-tropes-we-are-coming feel of the whole seafaring part of the story, and also because I’m frustrated by how the author has set a premise for some exciting seafaring adventures, only to waste much of everyone’s time by focusing on a very familiar song and dance.
I also get tired of Ruadri’s antics. He really behaves like a sexually predatory beast when he’s in his bad black sheep persona, and then snickers and actually experiences some kind of glee when she gets intimidated, all the while telling himself – and the reader, of course – that he’d never force a woman. Later, he’d paw the heroine and then remind himself that he hates all English and he’s also a bad man for taking her out of her element and putting her into a situation in which she’s irrevocably ruined. But when the opportunity arises, here comes that wagging tongue and those wiggling fingers! This man talks the talk, but can’t keep his libido under control, so he quickly comes off like a whiny twit who loves to make excuses for his antics.
And then, because this story is at the confluence of two different series, the characters from previous books start acting silly just because those characters have plot armors and, hence, I guess they don’t have to be smart anymore. Hence, supposedly smart Captain Lord from his book becoming a dunce here – ooh, his useless uncouth twat of a brother-in-law and Nerissa are both missing, but because he’s married to Ruadri’s wife, so there can’t be any correlation there! And Lucien, despite knowing that Captain Lord is now a full-bloom dingbat, still insists on having that dingbat lead the search for his sister and gets annoyed when the Navy top brass sends instead a neutral party who is not married to anyone related to Ruadri. Andrew, when his sister is missing, is basically content to just stand there and wave his hands in helpless uselessness. Oh, and all their wives are pregnant or breastfeeding, so it’s only the boys in charge. Too bad these boys are now dumb dumbs all around.
Some exciting stuff eventually happen, but by then I’m already quite numbed by the non-happenings taking place up to that point. This story takes place over a short period of time, but I feel like I’ve aged a decade by the time I reach the last page. The Wayward One, I feel, would have been better if it had been a shorter story instead. Too much time and too many words are spent on a dreary, draggy by-the-numbers relationship, and the author’s tendency to overuse the same few adjectives like “virile” for Ruadri only adds to the whole exhausting, repetitive feel of the whole thing.